You will undoubtedly read on other travel guides that Kyrgyzstan is the "Switzerland of Central Asia". There is one thing correct about that statement. Kyrgyzstan is indeed in Central Asia. But make no mistake that the comparison is far from accurate.

Geographically, Kyrgyzstan might resemble Switzerland a bit. They both have mountains that are tall and rocky. They are also both small countries. That is it though. Don't go to Kyrgyzstan expecting to find excellent chocolate, precision clocks and a society that is maddeningly orderly.

In fact, life in Kyrgyzstan is the opposite. It is disorderly and sometimes chaotic. The country continues to struggle more than a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union. It is landlocked and without much industry. It is small and poor and when you go into the rural areas that poverty will be undeniable. Its main city Bishkek is beautifully located yet post-Soviet grungy. It has fancy restaurants catering to the NGO crowd and crumbling apartments that never looked good when they were brand new.

What to do

The capital of Bishkek isn't bogged down with too many tourist sights, but it is a useful base for trekking in the nearby mountains. Post-Soviet modernization is going slow, so don't expect much of a tourist infrastructure yet.

The city of Karakol has a few interesting museums and churches, but it too is mostly just a good place to base yourself for trekking adventures.

Getting there

You can book a flight into Bishkek's Manas International Airport (code: FRU), which is about 25 km outside of the capital. Most flights originate in nearby countries, but long-haul service from London and Frankfurt is available.

Where to stay

There are many hotels in Kyrgyzstan, but the quality can vary greatly along with the prices. There is at least one hostel in Kyrgyzstan, and hopefully more coming soon.